Kaoru wasn't sure what was going on, but she knew the important thing: Kenshin was miserable. Kenshin was terribly guilty about something. Kenshin was going to take his own life.

Kaoru was aware of begging him not to do it. She told him she couldn't live without him. She told him what he had always said, about paying for crimes through living instead of dying. She reminded him that his was a life as well. She pleaded with him to let her help. And he looked at her through flat, deadened eyes and said: You may help this worthless one by being my second. And then it was Yahiko and Sano and Megumi and Tae and her father telling her not to do it, and her saying, just as Kenshin had said to her, that she had to. Had to do whatever she could to ease her Kenshin's pain. Then she was standing behind him as he knelt and unsheathed the wakizashi, her fingers sweating on the hilt of the sakabatou, as she gripped it in preparation to strike with the sharp inside edge. To strike true and clean, and wet the sakabatou with its first life's blood, and end Kenshin's hurting in an instant – he plunged the blade into himself – she raised the sword – he drew it up – it reached the peak of its swing – and wrenched to the side – it began to plunge –

And she awoke. Her room smelled of wood and jasmine and the soap Kenshin had used washing her blankets the day before. The cry that had been building in her all through the dream was on her lips, and she knew that if she loosed it, it would wake the whole dojo, if not the street. She clamped her teeth shut and held the cry inside until it had passed, and then she lay there, trembling. With relief, and with remaining horror, and terror, and sorrow, and – fury. Yes. Because of how selfish, how unfair the Kenshin in her dream had been, and how impossible it had been to stop him.

She crawled out of bed and went to Kenshin's room, padding barefoot through the midnight hush. She eased the door open. Moonlight fell through the window onto his still face. She knelt beside him, just to reassure herself that he really was whole. He stirred, opened moon-touched eyes. "Kaoru?" he said blearily, unable to comprehend her presence.

"I dreamed," Kaoru explained softly. "I dreamed you were going away, and you would not listen to me, and you left me no choices."

Kenshin offered a small, sleepy smile, and wormed his hand out from under his blanket. "This one would never do that to you, Kaoru-dono." He told her, still half asleep as he covered her hand in his larger, callused, so-warm one. Kaoru laid her other hand over it, trapping it between hers.

"Never?" she said. It was the most important question in the world.

Kenshin's fingers tightened around the hand beneath them. "Never."